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Thursday, September 6, 2012

DC: The New 52 Zero Month - Week 1


I can't believe it's been just over a year now since DC got me back into comics full time. To commemorate, here's a rehash of what I did last year when The New 52 launched: A bunch of thoughts on each week's Zero Issues. For those not aware, DC's Zero Issues take place as prequels for each title, set at some point in that title's past, to illuminate some of the new history of that title and shed some light on the revised history of The New 52 DC Universe.

So here's what I thought of them, in alphabetical order:

Action Comics #0. You don't tug on Superman's cape, but if you're a young boy coming from an abusive home, and the young, newly debuted Superman in a T-shirt and jeans is KO'd after taking an RPG in the face, then it's okay. Set over five years ago in the earliest days of Superman's arrival in Metropolis, Clark Kent had just moved out of Jimmy Olsen's swank apartment and into his shabby tenement. He just got hired at the Daily Star. He admires Lois Lane of the Daily Planet but has yet to meet her. And his appearance as Superman as depicted here didn't go so great, via the aforementioned rocket he got smacked down with. We also learn Jimmy Olsen is a rich kid whose supermodel mother slept around, got a disease and died, and his real father gave him a fortune. Okay. As for the young boy who borrowed Superman's cape, he finds the cape is invulnerable and allowed him to fight his alcoholic dad. He tries to run away with his brother. They try to get on a train but their dad tracks them down, and he's saved from getting run over by another train by Superman, who gets his cape back. And Lois sees it happen and coins the name "Superman."

There's also a backup story about Adam Blake, Captain Comet, who goes off into space to save worlds, including Earth. It's weird.

I dropped reading Action Comics a while back despite how much I loved Action Comics #1 because Grant Morrison Morrison-ed the book, as he must, and it became incomprehensible to me. Maybe I'll try Action again when there's a new creative team after #16.

Animal Man #0. The secret origin of how Buddy Baker became Animal Man, steeped in the current new mythology that divides the animal kingdom of the DCU, The Red, with the plant kingdom, The Green. Their enemy is The Rot, the great force of death, evil and pestilence controlled by a demon named Sethe. Their lead agent is a monster named Arcane (revamped Anton Arcane). Arcane killed the Animal Man, the avatar of The Red, and they needed a new one -- except the next avatar is destined to be Buddy Baker's daughter, who has yet to be born. So the Totems of The Red decide to empower stuntman and struggling actor Buddy Baker with limited animal powers as a stopgap temporary avatar until his daughter is born and can become the proper avatar. Then the origin of Animal Man, where he comes upon a crashed space ship and aliens give him his animal powers, is invoked and presented as a ruse by The Red to give Buddy his powers in a form he'd understand - that he'd become a superhero. It's pretty neat and nicely sets up the upcoming Animal Man-Swamp Thing vs. The Rot crossover Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder have been building towards all year.

Dial H for Hero #0. Uh... what? I read Dial H #1 and I didn't really get it. This one is set in the distant Babylonian past and the dial is a giant stone sundial, which is hilarious. But I couldn't understand what the hell was going on. If anyone can, explain it to me.

Detective Comics #0. This is the first issue of Detective Comics in The New 52 I think was good. It was redundant to Batman Begins and the old stories of Bruce Wayne training with Master Kirigi, and it had a twist you could see coming a mile away, but it was still good. 10 years ago, Bruce Wayne was training with cold hearted sensei Matsuda in the Himalayas and learned his martial skills from him, while learning lessons about not letting love in your heart. And yet, there's a cute girl in the village nearby he's attracted to. He finally asks her out and wouldn't you know it, she's a ninja assassin sent by the sensei's wife! D'oh! Still, it was good, and sort of explains why Bruce doesn't have a steady girlfriend. But what Detective #0 continues to do is add confusion to the Bat timeline. Okay, 10 years ago (2002) Bruce was in the Himalayas. He trained there for 6 months and change.

In the backup story involving Alfred's efforts to keep Wayne Manor and Bruce's assets from the Kanes (Martha Wayne's family, who are bad eggs - wait, are they related to Kathy Kane and Batwoman?), it's established Bruce returned to Gotham 7 years ago (2005). So in those 7 years, Bruce became Batman, then Dick Grayson became Robin, then Jason Todd became Robin and Dick became Nightwing, Barbara Gordon became Batgirl, Jason was killed by The Joker, Barbara was shot and paralyzed by The Joker, Superman debuted and the Justice League was formed, Tim Drake became Red Robin, Jason came back to life and became Red Hood, Damian Wayne was revealed as his son and became Robin (so Bruce must have impregnated Talia before he arrived in the Himalayas 10 years ago), there was a Final Crisis because Batman died and traveled back through time and then came back and formed Batman Inc., and that more or less brings us to today, with Batman facing down The Court of Owls. All that happened in 7 years. Okay.

Earth 2 #0. This deals with Terry Sloane, the smartest man in Earth 2 and the ally of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, who betrayed them in order to save the world during the Apokalips War. He's kind of like the Adrian Veidt of Earth 2. He discovered alternate dimensions and detonated bombs across the Earth to wipe out the millions of zombified humans who fell to the Anti-Life Equation, in a cool visual where Earth looks like it has fire pits like Apokalips. Though Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are dead now, and Robin and Supergirl are now on Earth 1 as Huntress and Power Girl, Terry Sloane is alive and is established as the Big Bad of Earth 2 going forward. Earth 2 is pretty neat. I'd really like a spinoff of Earth 2 set during the Apokalips War. I very much prefer learning more about the war between Earth 2 and the forces of Apokalips lead by Steppenwolf than the current exploits of the burgeoning Justice Society of America.

Green Lantern #0. This is a HUGE issue because it introduces DC's first Arab-American superhero, Simon Baz, our new Green Lantern. Simon Baz was a boy who watched the Twin Towers fall during 9/11 and a decade later, he's a car thief who gets imprisoned by the feds as a terrorist. Which he isn't, to be clear. DC's newest Green Lantern is NOT a terrorist. Anyway, following the events of Green Lantern Annual #1, Hal Jordan's Power Ring chooses Baz and busts him out of prison and now he's Green Lantern. Meanwhile, The Third Army is rising and Sinestro and Hal Jordan are believed to be dead but actually... somewhere. Whatever. Let me state for the record, Green Lantern and its various titles and its mythology do not float my boat. I'm not into this stuff. As for Baz and this issue, it's like Geoff Johns said, "You know what's awesome? Homeland. You know what has nothing to do with Homeland? Green Lantern. Well, it does now."

Phantom Stranger #0. Oof. As depicted in the DC Free Comic Book Day comic, The Phantom Stranger is one of the Trinity of Sin, along with Pandora and The Question, who were all punished in ancient times by a bunch of sorcerers and magicians for crimes against humanity. It turns out The Phantom Stranger is Judas and the cloak he wears is Jesus' cloak (which he has tailed over the millenia) and he wears 30 pieces of silver around his neck. He loses a piece of silver each time he does something good, or something. In this case, at some vague point in the last century, the Stranger meets Jim Corrigan and turns him into The Spectre. So now The Spectre is officially in The New 52. And I guess Phantom Stranger has 29 more things to do until whatever... Oy.

Swamp Thing #0. Opening with Arcane tricking and murdering a Swamp Thing in the late 19th century in Canada, this is the origin of how Alec Holland didn't become Swamp Thing. That's right. The basics of Alec Holland becoming Swamp Thing's origin are in place - the shack lab in the swamp, the bio-restorative formula, the explosion that sends a dying Holland into the swamp - but a couple of big changes: The demon Arcane was there and caused the explosion himself. Also, Alec Holland never became Swamp Thing. No, he didn't. Arcane caused the explosion because he knew it would destroy Holland's physical body. Under New 52 rules, the Green needs an organic body to latch onto in order to create a Swamp Thing - Green bonds with Red. But Holland's body was beyond repair. So it turns out The Green replicated a Swamp Thing with Holland's consciousness and that was the Swamp Thing we've read about all these years, via Alan Moore et al. So this ends with Holland not becoming Swamp Thing, but he is mysteriously, magically resurrected as Alec Holland in the last page. Also, he's Swamp Thing now and this sets up that crossover with Animal Man coming soon.

Worlds' Finest #0. This was my favorite of the bunch by far. We get an entire 22 page issue of Kevin Maguire's art and that alone makes me deliriously happy. Set years ago on Earth 2, it establishes Helena Wayne as Robin, as she's trained by her mother Catwoman while Batman is out with his buddies fighting the Apokalips War. Meanwhile, Superman trains his cousin Supergirl, who is his secret weapon no one knows about. Superman also has questions about how their rockets can launch from an exploding Krypton simultaneously but Kal arrived on Earth decades before Kara and Kara has hardly aged at all. We do get to see a bit of that hot, sexy marriage between Batman and Catwoman and we learn how Lois Lane was killed. Then Catwoman is killed, Batman is nearly killed, Robin goes in alone after Apokaliptian soldiers, is nearly killed, but she is saved by Supergirl. This begins a beautiful friendship. Worlds' Finest is a really awesome book and if there's one thing DC can be truly proud of, it's of the high quality its books headlined by female superheroes are, including Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, and Worlds' Finest.

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